PEORIA, IL -- The old Soviet style politbureau is alive and well at the Peoria District 150 School Board.
The August 11 meeting began with not a 90-plus presentation of various school programs, but a program lasting two and one half hours, featuring a long line of teachers and middle school students. The teachers all praised Superintendent Grenita Lathan for allowing the programs they described to operate. The students did cheers, step dances, and read a few short speeches.
It was obviously a scripted program designed to make Lathan look good to the board. But 2 1/2 hours of this? A ridiculous waste of precious time on something not suitable for a business meeting of the board.
At 8 p.m. I couldn't stand it any more and left, leaving my handy digital recorder with District 150 Watchgroup members determined to stick it out. A recording of the public comments is available here.
My decision to leave was a good one. The public comments did not begin until around 9:30 pm., for a meeting that began at 6:30 pm.
By then only three people commented, in the new 3-minute format. Terry Knapp branded the long program as outrageous, and said in his long history with District 150 he had never seen anything like it.
Sevino Sierra once more called for the superintendent and some board members to resign.
Sharon Crews talked about the outrageous expenses on the Rosetta Stone program, $324,000, which is hardly being used. Her written report is below.
Read it and weep for the taxpayers of Peoria:
-- Elaine Hopkins
The Lathan administration has spent over $324,000 on Rosetta Stone.
The 2011-12 Strategic Plan states that the District had completed plans to “utilize Rosetta Stone to provide a world language curriculum to all primary students and targeted middle schools.” The May 2014 FOIA response does not seem to verify those claims.
The response to my request for District curriculum guides and/or instructions to teachers for Rosetta Stone usage was “There are no such written documents.” Since the program’s use is not specified in a curriculum in which teachers are told what to teach and how often to teach it, there is a good chance that the program isn’t being used.
In spite of the website claims, the FOIA response states the program has been used at Manual as only supplementary material for Spanish and French. At Trewyn, Rosetta was used for only three months until a Spanish teacher was hired.
I failed to ask what languages are covered by the over $324,000 purchase. My guess is many more than Spanish and French, which are the only languages used—very minimally.
The invoices I received gave little hint as to what was actually purchased. Perhaps someone around the horseshoe would care to enlighten us. One invoice was for 8500 online site renewals for over $145,000. Of course, there was an original charge for a similar amount. Over $6,000 was spent for instructor training and manuals. If there was a training session, I bet there was some money spent on P-Cards for food.
The FOIA response did not provide the names of teachers who use Rosetta Stone in their classrooms, as requested—which probably means there aren’t any.
The District spends considerable money on textbooks for high school Spanish and French classes—and for teachers. The use of Rosetta Stone at only two schools as only a supplemental resource does not seem to justify spending over $324,000.
The bigger question is how many of the other very expensive computer software programs purchased by Lathan’s regime are not utilized enough to justify the expense?
Quite honestly, I believe you owe us an explanation as to why you approved spending $324,000 for Rosetta Stone.
--Public comments by Sharon Crews, August 11, 2014
Here's her hand out, a comparison of Roseetta Stone FOIA Request, the response and the District 150 website:
FOIA Request: Identify the school and the grade level (and teachers) where the Rosetta Stone
Program is used on a regular basis.
FOIA Response: Manual 8-12; Trewyn K-5
At Manual the curriculum for Spanish and French does not specify that
Rosetta Stone is used as a requirement—just an additional resource for
At Trewyn, students used Rosetta Stone twice a week for 3 months until a
full-time Spanish teacher was hired.
Website Info: By the end of 2011-12 school year, Strategic Plan 3.1.8—“Utilize Rosetta
Stone to provide a world language curriculum to all primary students and
targeted middle schools”—marked as COMPLETE
FOIA Request: What language(s) is taught?
FOIA Response: Only Spanish and French at Manual and only Spanish at Trewyn, as noted
above—as an additional source.
Website Info: A world language curriculum (My Note: Strategic Plan seems to imply more
than two languages).
FOIA Request: Please provide any District curriculum guides and/or instructions to teachers,
identifying specific material that is to be covered and/or guidelines as to what
skills should be mastered.
FOIA Response: There are no such written documents. However, at Manual only, students use
Rosetta Stone several times a week. Teachers assign 2-3 sections per week
using Rosetta Stone to be completed by students.
Website Info: A world language “curriculum” is mentioned, but evidently there is no
FOIA Request: Do any students/classes receive credit base solely on learning that takes place
through Rosetta Stone?
FOIA Response: No, students have additional classroom instruction beyond utilizing Rosetta
Website Info: The website states Rosetta Stone would provide a world language curriculum to
primary schools and targeted middle schools. (My Note: No primary schools
are listed in the FOIA response and only Trewyn Middle School. Also, note that
the website states “Rosetta Stone would provide...,” not supplement.)
FOIA Request: Provide data showing other uses of Rosetta Stone—online at home, etc.
FOIA Response: Rosetta Stone is used during scheduled class time (My Note: at Manual and
Trewyn only as stated above). Students are not required to work
independently on Rosetta Stone online at home.
Website Info: One sentence in a several page document dated May 2013 and titled “Leading
Teachers in Peoria Public Schools stated, “Promote the use Rosetta Stone over
the summer. Students who are limited English proficient should have their
language set on English.”
INFORMATION ABOUT ROSETTA STONE TAKEN FROM THE DISTRICT 150 WEBSITE
A “Rosetta Stone” search on District 150’s Website will take you to 222 general sites with very little information about Rosetta Stone. The many other sites under “Rosetta Stone” are mostly, if not all, Kellar teacher websites with little or no information about Rosetta Stone.
These are the mentions of Rosetta Stone:
On District 150’s website the Strategic Plan Improvement Target 3:1 reads: “By the end of the 2011-12 school year, increase the use of educational technology and web-based tools to enhance teaching and learning. Strategic Plan 3.1.8—“Utilize Rosetta Stone to provide a world language curriculum to all primary students and targeted middle schools”—is marked as COMPLETE.
District 150’s “Learning at Home” website but Rosetta Stone isn’t mentioned, just Compass Learning, Accelerated Reader, and Type to Learn.
One sentence in a several page document dated May 2013 and titled “Leading Teachers in Peoria Public Schools stated, “Promote the use Rosetta Stone over the summer. Students who are limited English proficient should have their language set on English.”
Glen Oak Website lists Rosetta Stone as a program at Glen Oak with no information about its use.
ellar Website states “What is Rosetta Stone? Click on the link below get a more detailed understanding of the program. The link goes to Wikepedia. The website, also, has a “Sign In” link, where apparently students can use Rosetta Stone at home.
Kellar July 25, 2011, letter to parents: Three exciting additions to our program this year will be
Compass Learning, Gifted and Talented Programming, and Rosetta Stone.
orthmoor Website states “Rosetta Stone: Student Log-In. First 3 letters of last name followed by lunch/id number (just like Compass Learning) - 30 -